2020 NLL West preview

I’ve done the North and East, so today we’ll preview the West division.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Considering they’re the reigning NLL champs, it’s not surprising that the Roughnecks didn’t make many roster changes. Captain Dan MacRae was taken in the expansion draft by New York, Riley Loewen signed with the Warriors, and Reece Callies and Rhys Duch are both injured. That’s it. In their place are Marshal King (Jesse’s brother), Haiden Dickson (no relation to Curtis), Liam LeClair (brother of former Roughneck Kellen LeClair), and Ryan Martel (not related to anyone in the NLL so far as I know). Martel played 15 games over the last two seasons for Calgary but is still only 21, and the other three are rookies.

When you win it all one year and change very little, you’re generally among the favourites the next year. To be the best, you have to beat the best, right? No reason to believe the Roughnecks won’t be in the hunt again this season.

Look out for

It would surprise precisely nobody if Jesse King had a monster year so I’ll go out on a limb and say… Jesse King.

Prediction

First in the west.


MammothColorado Mammoth

Colorado lost a few big names in the offseason – Cory Vitarelli, Jeremy Noble, Brad Self, and Ian Llord are all gone. Noble had a terrible season, and the other three played six games each with the Mammoth, so the losses aren’t really that devastating. But other than Tyler Carlson, brought in to replace backup goalie Steve Fryer, all the new guys are really new guys – NLL newbs.

The defense and transition is much the same, which is good news since only the Bandits gave up fewer goals than the Mammoth last year. Dillon Ward is back though as I said, Tyler Carlson will be backing him up instead of Steve Fryer. Ward will still take the majority of starts but Carlson is a veteran backup so the Mammoth aren’t in trouble if Ward falters. Offense was the Mammoth’s weak point last year – only one team gave up fewer goals, but only one team (the Warriors) scored fewer as well. With all the turnover in the offense, I hope the rookies play well or this could be a long season.

Look out for

That Killen kid impressed a lot of people last year, with 49 points in 15 games. With Noble, Keogh, and Adams all gone, Killen will be asked to take on a bigger role on the right side this season. He could be really good.

Prediction

Fourth in the west.


SealsLogoSan Diego Seals

Lots of turnover in the Seals camp as well. Gone are Dan Dawson, Turner Evans, Garrett Billings, Joe Walters, Paul Dawson, Kyle Hartzell, Tyler Carlson, and Adrian Sorichetti. Austin Staats and Casey Jackson begin the season on the IR. Sounds terrible, right? It may not be so bad. Joining the Seals are Wes Berg, Jeremy Noble, Zack Greer, Mike Carnegie, and Evan Messenger, so all is not lost in SoCal. They still have Kyle Buchanan, Connor Kearnan, and Connor Fields and while Fields only played in two games last year due to injuries, he finished fourth in points and second in goals in the PLL over the summer. Could he be the next field-star-becomes-box-star à la Tom Schreiber? That may be optimistic but I think we can count on him for a lot more than the five points he contributed last year. Assuming Greer can shake off the rust after his year of retirement and Noble turns back into the real Jeremy Noble and not the guy who couldn’t score last year, the Seals may still have a pretty good offense, made even better when Jackson and Staats return.

Frank Scigliano holds down the fort in net again, though his backup is Nick Damude, who has no NLL experience. The defense and transition corps consists of a pretty good mix of vets and rookies but one of the vets is lacrosse legend Brodie Merrill, and if you’re a rookie defender, there aren’t many guys you want to learn from more than Brodie.

Last year, I said that if everything works out for the Seals, they could be a very good team. Well, everything worked out and they were a very good team. I’m not sure this year’s Seals are better than last year’s but if everything works out, they won’t be far off.

Look out for

Wes Berg will be itching to prove that he is worth the money Calgary didn’t want to pay him, so I see a big year for him.

Prediction

Third in the west.


RushSaskatchewan Rush

Good news for the Rush: Ryan Dilks and Jeff Cornwall are back! (Well, Cornwall isn’t quite but will be soon.) Bad news: they lost Nik Bilic, Brett Mydske, and Curtis Knight. Good news: they’re such a deep team that they’ll still be great. Bad news: So will Calgary.

Losing Curtis Knight will hurt the Rush, both more than you might think – because he was an important piece of their offense – and less then you might think – because they’re so deep. 2018 5th overall draft pick Connor Robinson will see more playing time, and guys like Ryan Keenan and Marty Dinsdale will get some more minutes to make up for the loss of Knight.

The Rush defense has been their strong point for years and while losing Mydske will hurt, getting Dilks back will make up for that. Jeff Cornwall will likely score more than Bilic would have but Bilic was a fan favourite known for his grit and toughness (and, yes, fights) more than his goal-scoring.

Look out for

Marty Dinsdale has been one of those “under the radar” sort of guys for years, but the weird thing is how everyone talks about the fact that nobody talks about him. Dinsdale will take over some of Curtis Knight’s role and we might see his point totals increase.

Prediction

Second in the west.


PrintVancouver Warriors

No blockbuster trades for the Warriors this off-season, but they did make a couple of significant moves. Signing Nik Bilic is huge. He brings “sandpaper” (as Teddy Jenner put it) to the team, and he’s a veteran who’s won Championships, and you can never have too many of those. And the Warriors don’t have many of those. Another vet defender who wasn’t there last year is Chris O’Dougherty, another guy who brings grit and toughness to the Vancouver back end.

The front end isn’t hugely different, with Riley Loewen taking over for Tony Malcom. Keegan Bal stepped up his game big-time last season, so he’ll be expected to continue his strong play, and Mitch Jones is also coming off of his best season. Other than those two and Malcom, only Logan Schuss and Jordan McBride had more than twenty points last year. The Warriors scored the fewest goals of any team in 2019, so some more scoring up front and in transition wouldn’t be unwelcome.

Eric Penney and Aaron Bold split time between the pipes last year, and both are back again this year. Will Penney finally take his spot as the #1 starter, a position the Warriors (and Stealth before them) seem to have been saving for him for years, or will he continue to fight Bold for that spot? The team is probably fine either way – competition between the two isn’t a bad thing, but if Penney plays well enough to grab that spot for himself, so much the better.

Look out for

Similar to Curtis Knight stepping out from behind the Rush’s top three, Riley Loewen is expected to be one of the top scorers instead of playing behind them.

Prediction

Fifth in the west.

2020 NLL East preview

Yesterday I started with the North division, today we’ll cover the East. Where I think they will end up in the standings and who might have a breakout year.

SwarmGeorgia Swarm

Take a team that finished second in the division last year, add Joel White and Jordan Hall, and give their goalie a ton of confidence with a Mann Cup, Mann Cup MVP award, and a WILC Championship over the summer and what do you get? The top team in the east, that’s what. Lyle and Miles, Randy, and Shayne already made an impressive top-four, possibly the best in the league, and adding Hall and two former transition guys in Zed Williams and Bryan Cole rounds out an amazing offense. Their D is mostly the same as last year and transition has been improved as well with the addition of White and Kason Tarbell, who impressed at the WILC’s.

Look out for

Zed Williams has flown under the radar for a while as a scoring threat but no longer.

Prediction

First in the east.


Black WolvesNew England Black Wolves

New England has added a few players to their offense that could make a significant difference. Andrew Kew was expected to be the #1 draft choice and while New York seems quite happy with Tyson Gibson, I think the Wolves are equally happy that Kew fell to third. Losing Tyler Digby’s size and strength will hurt but the additions of Jordan Durston and Tony Malcom will offset that. Durston, in particular, is good at digging out loose balls and creating space up the middle, and giving guys like Stephan Leblanc and Callum Crawford extra chances or more space is not good for opposing goalies. After an excellent 2018, Joe Resetarits picked up 34 extra points in 2018 over 2017, but dropped 33 in 2019. One of those two years was probably an anomaly, so perhaps a full season with the Black Wolves will tell us which.

Defense consists of three seasoned veterans in Manney, LaFontaine, and newcomer Creighton Reid along with a bunch of guys under 25. The goalies are young too – Doug Jamieson will be in his second season as a starter, but he’s only 24 and backup Ethan Woods is a rookie.

Look out for

Jordan Durston won’t score 100 points, but he could climb back to the 60-70 point range that he hit in 2018 with the Bandits.

Prediction

Second in the east.


Riptide-smallNew York Riptide

Last season we talked about the Seals as “not looking like an expansion team”, and they finished above .500 and hosted a playoff game. The Rochester Knighthawks, in my opinion, may not have quite that level of success but they look pretty good too. The Riptide look a little more like your typical expansion team – some vets here and there but lots of unproven players with a year or two of experience and a bunch of rookies. That’s not to say they’re definitely going to suck. Guys like McArdle and Digby know how to find the back of the net, and Tyson Gibson was selected first overall for a reason.

Ranagan, MacRae, Suitor and Manley are all solid veteran D guys, but I have concerns about Alex Buque as the starting goalie. He had that job in both Buffalo and New England and lost it in both cases. He’s obviously a year older and more experienced now so maybe this is his shot – and maybe on a team with no expectations, he’ll get consistent starts and minutes which can only help.

Like I said, I’m not saying they will definitely be bad, but there are too many question marks for me.

Look out for

Tyler Digby had a resurgence in New England last year. He has the most NLL experience of any forward and so is likely to become the de facto leader of the offense.

Prediction

Fourth in the east.


WingsPhiladelphia Wings

The Wings have made a lot of changes this year. Both goalies are out, and guys like Dylan Evans, Jordan Hall, and Vaughn Harris are also gone. But the Wings will get Brett Hickey back after missing most of last year, and have also added Cory Vitarelli and Kevin Buchanan to their offense. Along with Kevin Crowley, Blaze Riorden, and Josh Currier, that’s a pretty decent offense. Matt Rambo was a Rookie of the Year candidate last year and then was the scoring leader, league MVP, and Championship game MVP over the summer in the PLL – if he can inject some of the intensity and raw skill he showed in the PLL into the Wings, look out.

The new faces on offense will allow Kiel Matisz to stick with transition, not that having him play offense was a problem.

All three goalies from last season are gone, replaced by Zach Higgins and the un-retired Brandon Miller. I expect Higgins to get most of the minutes with Miller as backup and part-time unofficial goalie coach. Higgins was a starter for the 2015 Swarm but has been a backup ever since. The defense in front of Higgins or Miller is quite young and inexperienced with the exception of Matisz and 13-year veteran Ian Llord. When Llord played his first NLL game, Wings rookie Alex Pace was eight years old.

Look out for

Brett Hickey, I’m sure, has been itching to get back on the floor since he was injured in the third game last year. I expect him to put up some serious numbers this year.

Prediction

Third in the east.

2020 NLL North preview

This is my first-ever NLL North division preview! Here’s where I think each team will end up in the standings and who might have a breakout year.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

The Bandits went to the finals last year, but have since lost Shawn Evans, Jordan Durston, and Thomas Hoggarth and replaced them all with Quinn Powless. That’s not to say that Dhane Smith, Corey Small, Chase Fraser, Josh Byrne, and Chris Cloutier aren’t a formidable offense, but that’s a lot of firepower to lose in one year. Defense looks pretty good and transition could be excellent. Back in the net, Matt Vinc is still Matt Vinc.

Look out for

Josh Byrne was headed for an excellent season in 2019 but missed half the season with an injury. Assuming he’s fully healthy, he could blow the doors off the East North division.

Prediction

Second in the north.


Thunderbirds-smallHalifax Thunderbirds

Last year’s Knighthawks had a lousy season up until April, when they won four of their last five. Halifax has made a few changes throughout their roster, but if you take Jamieson, Shanks, Boushy, and Jackson and add a full season of Ryan Benesch and Stephen Keogh as well as the highly touted Clarke Petterson, that’s a pretty solid group of forwards. Defense has lots of young guys and a few vets to show the way, but they also have Graeme Hossack, probably the best defender in the league right now. Warren Hill started last season as the backup but finished strong, playing every minute of those late-season wins with a save percentage above 80% in all of them (and almost 90% in one). Playing at that level for the entire season is a tall order but he’ll need to be in that ballpark for the Thunderbirds to compete with the Bandits and Rock.

Look out for

Warren Hill. In his first year as a bona fide starter, he’ll keep the Thunderbirds competitive and might even steal a game or two.

Prediction

Third in the north.


Knighthawks-smallRochester Knighthawks

Is Steve Fryer ready to be a #1 goalie in the NLL? Signs say yes and I hope they’re right, because his two backups have a total of 17 minutes of NLL experience between them. Dan Carey has put together quite a nice little team here, so we might see something similar to last year’s Seals – an expansion team that doesn’t really look like an expansion team. Lots of strength up front with Shawn Evans, Turner Evans, Cattoni, Knight, Lintner, and Caputo, and some vets on D as well. They have eight players listed as transition, but other than Frank Brown (starting the season on IR) and Zac Reid, only one has any NLL experience – Adam Perroni played in three games over two seasons.

Look out for

Curtis Knight has been an important role player for the Rush for years, but now out of the shadow of Matthews, Church, and McIntosh, he has the ability to be one of the top point producers on the Knighthawks.

Prediction

Fourth in the north.


RockToronto Rock

The Rock lost Dan Lintner in the expansion draft and Brock Sorensen got injured, so they went out and got a different Dan and a different Brock.

I’ve been able to see the Rock play three times already this season, though of course you can’t take much away from pre-season exhibition games. Nick Rose didn’t play in one of them, Tom Schreiber didn’t play in any of them, and while the Rock kept their roster size down, other teams were fielding what seemed like dozens of players. But that said, I really liked watching Dan Dawson on the Rock offense. After about 68 seasons in the NLL, he’s still a force to be reckoned with, his passing ability is amazing, and his floor vision is off the charts. The loss of Creighton Reid and Brock Sorensen will hurt the D, but the big veteran David Brock will make up for some of that. Like I said, Tom Schreiber didn’t play in any of the Rock’s pre-season games, so hopefully his addition on the same side as Dawson won’t mess things up. However, it’s hard to imagine two unselfish players with their skill levels wouldn’t mesh reasonably well.

Look out for

Damon Edwards only missed one game last year but his points dropped by half and his penalty minutes almost doubled. I’d love to see a resurgence from Edwards, if he can stay out of the box (though he couldn’t at last weekend’s game against the Rush).

Prediction

First in the north.

2019-2020 NLL Predictions

Here are my predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards. The “Dark Horse” predictions are my “not as likely but could happen” picks.

Final Standings

I’ve also included my picks for overall standings in parens after the team name.

North

  1. Toronto Rock (4)
  2. Buffalo Bandits (7)
  3. Halifax Thunderbirds (9)
  4. Rochester Knighthawks (10)

East

  1. Georgia Swarm (1)
  2. New England Black Wolves (6)
  3. Philadelphia Wings (11)
  4. New York Riptide (13)

West

  1. Calgary Roughnecks (2)
  2. Saskatchewan Rush (3)
  3. San Diego Seals (5)
  4. Colorado Mammoth (8)
  5. Vancouver Warriors (12)

Individual Awards

MVP

The picture came from a Google link to an article from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix but the actual article doesn't have the picture, so I have no way to give photo credit.Winner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Callum Crawford, Cody Jamieson
Dark horse: Zach Currier

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Christian Del Bianco
Short list: Dillon Ward, Mike Poulin, Matt Vinc
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Kyle Rubisch
Short list: Graeme Hossack, Steve Priolo
Dark horse: Brad Kri

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Zach Currier
Short list: Challen Rogers, Joey Cupido
Dark horse: Kiel Matisz

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Andrew Kew
Short list: Ryland Rees

Same disclaimer as previous years: I don’t follow MSL or WLA in enough detail to really have a good idea. Just going by what I’ve heard on podcasts and read on IL Indoor and Twitter and such.

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Ed Comeau
Short list: Derek Keenan, Pat Coyle
Dark horse: Mike Hasen

GM of the Year

Winner: Patrick Merrill
Short list: Rich Lisk, Dan Richardson if the Warriors finish above .500
Dark horse: Dan Carey

Presenting your 2018-2019 Boston Blazers

Here it is: a team full of players who are not on a team, i.e. not on any roster or practice squad and not on any retired, injured, holdout, PUP, or other list. I’m quite surprised at who’s on this year’s list, considering there are two more teams than last year, and thus forty-two more positions available. And even with all of those extra players, these guys are still around.

Well, it’s not quite a full team since I only have 17 players. There aren’t a lot of forwards, so this Blazers team may have some trouble scoring goals, but they have a proven goaltender in Tyler Carlson and a pretty impressive defensive core. And they’ll win a bunch of faceoffs with Jay Thorimbert. They even have two former NLL captains in Joel White and Billy Dee Smith.

In making this list, I am explicitly assuming that Kevin Crowley, Curtis Dickson, Wes Berg, Nic Bilic, Robert Church, and Mike Messenger will sign contracts. If they don’t, none of them would make this list anyway since they’d either be put on a hold-out list or be released, in which case some team will instantly pick them up.

Forwards

Mark Cockerton
Evan Messenger
Daryl Veltman
Joe Walters

Transition/Defense

Jay ThorimbertReid Acton On Buffalo’s protected list
Dan Ball
Alex Kedoh Hill
Bill O’Brien
Tyson Roe
Billy Dee Smith
Derek Suddons
Cody Teichroeb
Jay Thorimbert On Toronto’s practice roster
Joel White On Georgia’s protected list
Adam Will

Goalies

Zak Boychuk
Tyler Carlson

 

2018-19 NLL Preview: East division

Just like yesterday’s West division preview, today we’ll cover the East: where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and a haiku for each team.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

Coupla changes in Buffalo. The Alex Buque experiment didn’t work out so well last year, but I think they’ve solved that problem. Reigning Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc was brought in from Rochester to shore up the goaltending. I don’t think Vinc was thrilled with the prospect of the team moving to Halifax next year, and Buffalo is closer to his home in St. Catharine’s, so he’s happy.

But Steve Dietrich also brought in Corey Small, Bryce Sweeting, Ethan O’Connor, and Jon Harnett. Add a couple of defensive/transition studs in Ian MacKay and Matt Gilray (two of the top four draft picks) and the changes to the Bandits roster are impressive. They had a pretty potent lineup last year but needed goaltending and defensive help. They’ve addressed those shortcomings and improved their offense, which makes them my top pick for the East.

Look out for

Shawn Evans didn’t have a great year in 2018 by his standards. 83 points certainly ain’t bad, but after five straight 100+ point seasons, it’s a bit of a drop. I think he’ll want to prove that he’s still got it.

Prediction

First in the east.

Haiku

Corey Small up front
Lots of defensive changes
Vino in the net


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

The Swarm lost Kiel Matisz, Jordan Hall, and Jesse King over the summer. So who’s going to score their goals? Well, let’s not panic just yet. They still have Lyle Thompson, Miles Thompson, Shayne Jackson, Randy Staats, and Holden Cattoni, so I think they should still be OK in the offense department. The transition lost vets Ethan O’Connor and Joel White and replaced them with rookies, so that’s a possible concern. Everyone focuses on the Swarm’s offense so their defense gets kind of ignored. They don’t have the big names like Saskatchewan but I think the Swarm D as a whole is underrated.

Look out for

Randy Staats’s points-per-game average dropped to 4.3 last year, a full point below his rookie season and a point and a half below 2017. With fewer bodies to share the ball, I see his numbers going back up from the “very good” range to the “elite” range.

Prediction

Second in the east.

Haiku

Lots of great offense
But their defense is good too
So is Mike Poulin


Black WolvesNew England Black Wolves

For a team that had Kevin Crowley (who scored 51 goals), Stephan Leblanc, Kyle Buchanan, and half a season each of Johnny Powless, Shawn Evans and Callum Crawford, it’s surprising that other than the Stealth, nobody scored fewer goals than the Black Wolves in 2018. In 2019 they’ll have a full season of Crawford and while they lost Buchanan, they’ve gained Tyler Digby who will likely be getting more floor time than he got with Calgary. That’s some pretty decent firepower up front but I’m not sure it’ll be enough. They’ll have to get increased production from a guy like Reilly O’Connor and either acquire some more offense or hope for productive rookies.

This is assuming that Kevin Crowley re-signs. If he doesn’t, they’re in a bit of trouble.

Goaltending is also a question as the Black Wolves are trying the Alex Buque experiment, Part II. As I said above, Part I in Buffalo last season wasn’t exactly a rousing success.

Look out for

Tyler Digby had a great sophomore season in Vancouver and two good seasons in Calgary before his numbers fell off a cliff last season. He’ll likely get more playing time in New England and I see his numbers climbing back into the 50s.

Prediction

Fourth in the east.

Haiku

Black Wolves big scorers
Crowley, Digby, and Crawford
They’re all freakin’ huge


WingsPhiladelphia Wings

There are a couple of question marks for the Wings. Matisz, Hall, and Hickey make a pretty good top three, I’ve only heard good things about Chris Cloutier and Matt Rambo, and guys like Vaughn Harris, Blaze Riorden, and Josh Currier give them some pretty good secondary scoring. Will it be enough? Maybe. Defense looks pretty good, with a number of proven NLL defenders like Zach Reid, Liam Byrnes, Liam Patten, and Frank Brown. No superstar defensive studs (though a lot of people are big on Brown) but a decent core. Goaltending is a question since Davide DiRuscio has shown flashes of being a solid #1 stopper but has been inconsistent, and he also missed all of last season with an injury. The only other goalie on the Wings roster is Doug Buchan, who has zero NLL minutes.

Look out for

Brett Hickey’s last four seasons were 81, 28, 79, and 40 points, which means he’s due for another 80-ish point season. I don’t know if he’ll get there, but he’ll have more than 40.

Prediction

Sixth in the east.

Haiku

Moose is the captain
Hall, Hickey, and Big Fish too
Philly has its Wings


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

The Knighthawks made the NLL Finals just last year and didn’t make that many changes but I’m still picking them to finish 5th in the East this year. First off, their appearance in the finals was unexpected. They were the best team in the East down the stretch and beat who they had to beat in the playoffs to get to the finals, so it’s not as if they didn’t deserve it, but I’d say very few were calling the Knighthawks to come out of the East. Secondly and more importantly, they lost Matt Vinc, one of the best NLL goalies ever and a no-doubt Hall of Famer. The Knighthawks are now pinning their hopes on Vinc’s backup Angus Goodleaf, who’s been an excellent backup to Vinc for years. But Goodleaf has only hit 200 minutes in a season once in his career; Vinc has recorded 900 minutes nine times in the last ten years (and recorded 890 in the tenth year).

The Knighthawks also lost Sid Smith to retirement injury (I heard that he retired but he’s starting the season on the IR) and lost Josh Currier and Frank Brown (who only played three games) to the Wings in the expansion draft, but that’s it. Their offense was very good last year thanks in part to rookies Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell. Can they repeat their success? Is the Joe Resetarits of 2018 the real thing or was that a fluky season? (I suspect it’s the former.) The defense and transition are anchored by Defensive Player of the Year Graeme Hossack and Rookie of the Year Jake Withers, so they should be fine but the goaltending is my concern.

Look out for

Pat Saunders is, I’m sure, happy to be back in the east. Not sure he’ll get back to the 44 goals he had in 2016 but 25-30 isn’t unlikely.

Prediction

Fifth in the east.

Haiku

No Vinc, no problem
Knighthawks have faith in Goodleaf
Lots of young kids too


RockToronto Rock

Last year, the Rock without Tom Schreiber was a very different team than the Rock with Tom Schreiber. He’s back and healthy and looked great in the scrimmage against the Mammoth, but I imagine they’ll set up their offense so that they don’t seem so uncoordinated if he’s not there or has an off night. Adam Jones also looked good in the scrimmage as did Johnny Powless. Between those guys and Rob Hellyer, Phil Caputo, Dan Craig, and Dan Lintner, I’m really looking forward to watching the Rock offense. The transition will be great as well, even without Brodie Merrill. Challen Rogers, Damon Edwards, Sheldon Burns, and Latrell Harris make up a pretty potent squad and I’m curious if Jesse Gamble will return. He took last year off for work reasons and I assumed he’d be back this year but I’ve heard nothing about him at all. As for goaltending, I have no concerns about Nick Rose but Riley Hutchcraft has played all of 15 minutes in his career.

Look out for

Dan Lintner was a healthy scratch in a number of games last season. I posted a few times that I felt bad for him and even suggested the Rock should trade him so he’d actually get to play somewhere. I don’t think he’ll be sitting as much this year and his patience will have paid off.

Prediction

Third in the east.

Haiku

Powless joins the Rock
Schreiber leads the offense, but
Challen wears the C

2018-19 NLL Preview: West division

Every year, I go through the teams and give my analysis for each one. I also pick a player who I think will have a great year, and give a prediction on where I think the team will end up. And every year, I write a haiku for each team. Why? Just because. Here’s the West, and we’ll do the East tomorrow.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Curtis Dickson and Wes Berg haven’t signed yet but it looks like the Roughnecks are preparing for the possibility of playing without one or both of them, at least for a while. They traded for Jesse King and Dan Taylor and signed Rhys Duch the second the Warriors released him. If Dickson and Berg both return, they could have an embarrassment of riches with all of those guys plus Dane Dobbie up front. Tyler Richards is backing up Christian Del Bianco and while Richards was an excellent goalie in his prime, he didn’t play at all last year and had a GAA of about 13½ the year before. Of course, if Del Bianco has his way, Richards will play about 17 minutes this year anyway.

Look out for

Rhys Duch apparently had some injury trouble last season which is why it was a down year for him. Assuming he’s healthy (and five goals in last weekend’s scrimmage implies that he is), he’s going to be out to show the Warriors that releasing him was a bad move. I don’t see him hitting 100 points again but 80 isn’t out of the question.

Prediction

Second in the west.

Haiku

No Dickson or Berg?
Maybe but Rhys Duch will help
King and Taylor too


MammothColorado Mammoth

Very few changes for the Mammoth, but they didn’t really need big changes. They have a solid offense with a good mix of young players and vets. Their strong defense lost Bryce Sweeting and Cam Holding (who didn’t play last year anyway) but they’re getting Dan Coates back and adding John Lintz. They also have one of the best goalies in the league, and three coaches who were excellent NLL players. Williams and McBride have no NLL coaching experience but have coached at various other levels, and there’s no reason to think they won’t excel at this level as well.

Look out for

Tim Edwards dominated the face-off dot in the Mammoth’s scrimmage against the Rock. I don’t think he’ll replace Joey Cupido as the top transition guy on the team but with Jay Thorimbert out of the league (at least for now), Edwards could be the top face-off guy in the NLL.

Prediction

Third in the west.

Haiku

Captain Coates returns
Willy and McBride help coach
Benny leads the O


SealsLogoSan Diego Seals

The Seals are a first-year expansion team so they’re gonna suck, right? Maybe not. There are some big-name players here. Dawson and Merrill may be past their prime (though Merrill’s only a year removed from his most recent Transition Player of the Year award) but not far enough past that they can’t be productive, and having all the young players learning from these two is invaluable. It’s funny that when they acquired 31-year-old Kyle Buchanan, I thought he‘d be the veteran leader on the team. I had a comment here about Billings and Walters not having played much in the last two years but they can still be productive. Then the rosters were released. Walters was cut and Billings is on the “inactive roster” so, um, never mind.

Add in guys like Holding, Evans, Clelland, Reinholdt, MacIntosh, Jackson, Scigliano, and Sorichetti and you have young guys with experience, and scoring phenom Austin Staats will be amazing. As I said in my IL Indoor comment: If everything works out, the Seals could be very good but even if it doesn’t, I don’t think they’ll be that bad.

Look out for

Kyle Buchanan has bounced between 50 and 70 points per season for the last five years but I think he’ll make the jump to the next level. Not sure I see 100+ points for him but 80+ or even 90 is definitely possible.

Prediction

Fourth in the west

Haiku

Lacrosse in the sun
Brodie and Dan are leaders
Seals are surfacing


RushSaskatchewan Rush

Losing guys like Ryan Dilks and Jeff Cornwall would be devastating to some defenses, but not the Rush. They have enough great D guys that they will be able to weather the storm but just in case, they brought in Travis Cornwall. They also lost Dan Dawson to free agency and Adrian Sorichetti to the expansion draft, so this is likely the biggest single-season roster “overhaul” that we’ve seen in Saskatchewan in several years. Will the changes be enough to drop them from their standard spot of favourite in the west? Nope.

Similar to Dickson and Berg in Calgary, I’m assuming they re-sign their holdouts Church, Messenger, and Bilic.

Look out for

Travis Cornwall will be given more playing time than he got in Vancouver last year, and I think he will make the most of it.

Prediction

First in the west

Haiku

Minimal changes
No Dilks but different Cornwall
Rush are still the faves


PrintVancouver Warriors

I hate to put Vancouver at the bottom again. In previous off-seasons, I thought they should have been making big changes to their lineup but they didn’t. It seemed that they made a few changes here and there in the hopes that things would magically work this time. This season, they changed everything – the announced roster has only eight guys (out of 21) who were on the roster at the end of last season (though that doesn’t include Salt and McCready, who were on the IR). They acquired a solid #1 goalie and they’ve made significant changes to their lineup, knowing the lineup that got them to 2-16 last year wasn’t good enough, and that’s good. But they lost their top two scorers (Duch and Small) and Pat Saunders and Casey Jackson and replaced them all with Mitch Jones. Jones is a great player, but he can’t replace all four of them. They lost Chris O’Dougherty, Travis Cornwall, Cliff Smith and Andrew Suitor and replaced them with rookies. Building for the future is great and sometimes necessary. It’s short term pain for long term gain, but I think this season might be painful.

Look out for

I don’t know much about them but I’m going to go with the Porter brothers. I did see them play in the Mann Cup in Six Nations a couple of years ago and was impressed with their effort and grit. Maybe there’s a reason that nobody’s given them a chance in the NLL up to now, but now that they have that chance, I think they’ll play their hearts out to make sure people know they deserve to be there.

Prediction

Fifth in the west.

Haiku

Changes in BC
Stealth are now the Warriors
Roster is all new